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Parks Beyond Borders #4: Looking Abroad At National Park News

Crater Lake on Mount Halla, Mount Halla National Park, Korea

 A smoking view! Mount Halla, South Korea's highest peak and, appropriately, a volcano, will be the only national park to elude an upcoming complete ban on smoking. (See article further below.)

Editor's note: The Traveler is expanding our coverage of national parks in other nations. We'll soon be rolling out travel features on international park destinations, but we're also christening this weekly roundup on park news from countries other than the U.S. And if you live in one of the 200 countries where our readers reside, send Randy your news or suggestions.

Elephant “Massacre” in Zimbabwe National Park

National Parks staff in Zimbabwe killed three elephants in the Chiredzi River Conservancy after local settlers complained about the animals.

According to Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), "The settlers claimed that the animals had attacked them and instead of investigating these claims, the Parks staff just went in and shot them." Rodrigues blamed “criminal elements” within the Parks Authority.

The dead elephants included two lactating cows and one young bull, for a total of seven killed in the Conservancy within 35 days. "Parks insists that there is an abundance of elephant in Zimbabwe,”  Rodrigues said, “but this just isn't true. In Chiredzi alone there were 72 elephants, now there are just 40.”

Rodrigues and conservationists say park staff are working with illegal land invaders, “who have all but taken over the Chiredzi River Conservancy,” said a report on the AllAfrica news website. Rodrigues maintains, “the invaders are deliberately trying to get rid of the wildlife there, to make way for farming.” AllAfrica reported that, “The Parks employees removed the ivory from the dead animals and left the land invaders to remove the meat from the carcasses.”

Rodrigues said, "It appears that National Parks headquarters in Harare are not aware of what their counterparts are doing in the Lowveld and it is of great concern that the guardians of our wildlife are participating in this criminal activity."

“The increasing demand for ivory and the complete lack of the rule of law in Zimbabwe is fueling this kind of assisted poaching,” Rodrigues said.

Reuters reports that the “demand for ivory has seen poaching levels across Africa soar in recent weeks. Cameroon's elephant population has been seriously hit, with poachers killing more than 200 elephants in just six weeks.” Meanwhile, the global conservation group TRAFFIC, that works to monitor and deter wildlife poaching and trade, has warned of a surge in elephant poaching in Africa to meet Asian demand for tusks.

Private Donation to Restore One of New Zealand’s Most Popular National Parks

A $30 million, 30-year restoration project called Project Janszoon is set to fund species recovery and pest control in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s smallest national park, located on the northern tip of the country’s south island.

Devon McLean, Director of the project, says the initial five years of the ecological restoration effort will be funded by a private family trust. The work will include reintroduction of birds no longer living in the park (including possibly great spotted kiwi, mohua, and sooty shearwater) and control of nonnative predators.

McLean says Abel Tasman was picked because it’s one of New Zealand's most visited national parks. The project is targeted at the 2042 100th anniversary of the park and intends to restore native forests and bird life in up to 80 percent of the area. The target date is also the 400th anniversary of Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman’s discovery of New Zealand.

Working with the same family trust, Nelson, New Zealand-businessman McLean helped restore Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf east of Auckland, the country’s biggest city. "Part of this (the Abel Tasman project) is demonstrating that this is actually possible," McLean said. He hopes that success will encourage other philanthropists to step up.

A Volcano Will Avoid Smoking Ban in Korea National Parks

Visit Korea’s English-language national park website and  you might assume the “Breathing Nature” tag-line is well, just a tag-line. Actually, it’s a warning—you can still smoke at some park rest areas, restrooms, and parking lots until December 2012—but after that, smoking will be completely banned at national parks nationwide.

Appropriately, the only one of the country’s twenty national parks that will not implement the ban is a volcanic summit—South Korea’s highest mountain—with a crater lake at its peak. Mt. Halla National Park is managed by the Special Self-Governing Province of Jeju, an island in the East China Sea south of the main Korean peninsula and west of Japan.

Mount Halla’s ability to elude the smoking ban could have been compromised last fall when management of the park was almost handed over to the central government. Instead last Aug. 11th President Lee Myung Bak decided that Jeju provincial government will continue to manage Mt. Halla as it has for more than forty years.

Speaking for the other nineteen parks, a central government official at the Korea Ministry of Environment was quoted as saying, "We expect people's support for the policy to enjoy the beauty of preserved nature while breathing fresh air." However, a Jeju official said the island has no plans yet to make Mt. Halla National Park completely smoke-free.

The Korea National Park Service (KNPS) will promote the policy change all year. Violators of the new ban will be fined 100,000 won, the same penalty leveled on people right now who are caught smoking on trails or outside smoking areas.

Mount Halla National Park, a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site, is located in the center of Jeju Island. The summit is 1950 meters (6,400 feet). A Korean saying goes "Jeju Island is Halla Mountain, and Halla Mountain is Jeju Island." There are five trails to the summit that are very popular for day hiking.

UNESCO To Address “Office Block” in Table Mountain National Park

“Polar swimmer” and conservationist Lewis Pugh was outraged when a toll plaza and administrative office complex was planned for the Chapman’s Peak area of Table Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa.

Pugh, who helped get a Norwegian fjord declared a World Heritage site, grew tired of local inattention to the issue and wrote to UNESCO. He wrote, “Our legal team says this is contrary to South African law. But government are insistent that they will press ahead, and have started laying the foundations. There have been protest marches and a hunger strike but no one seems to listen.”

Lazare Eloundou, head of Unesco's World Heritage Centre Africa unit, responded to say that the organization had contacted government officials. "We have contacted the South African authorities to get more information in order to take appropriate action. We are also studying the existing legislative measures protecting Table Mountain National Parks as a World Heritage Site," Eloundou wrote back.

Last week Pugh told the Cape Times that he was troubled by many issues in the Chapman's Peak toll plaza controversy, "but the one that gets to me is building an office block on a World Heritage Site inside a national park. These places are sacrosanct and must be protected. I wrote to Unesco asking if they can intervene and they have kindly agreed to do so."


Thanks for the international round-up. It's good to be reminded that there are important park issues in other parts of the world!

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